Welcome to issue no. 3 Part 2 of Foodstuff

November 21, 1997

Hi, it's Debbie again. Consider this part two of last week's newsletter. Don't worry, I'm not always going to be this wordy. But after all, it is the foodie holiday of the year! If anyone still has questions, I prefer that you post them on the prodigynet.hobbies.foodstuff newsgroup. For last minute recipe ideas, check out this cool site: http://www.rdthanksgiving.com/classicrecipes.html

In this issue:


FAQs about Turkey

HOW MUCH SHOULD MY TURKEY WEIGH?

If your turkey weighs less than 12 pounds, plan to purchase 1 pound per person. If your turkey weighs more than 12 pounds, you will only need 3/4 pound for each guest.

WHAT IS THE BEST WAY TO THAW A TURKEY?

The easiest and safest way to thaw a turkey is to place the wrapped bird on a tray in the refrigerator. Plan about 24 hours for each 5 pounds of the bird's weight. Remember not to count the day you will be roasting it. Turkey should never be thawed at room temperature.

FRESH OR FROZEN

It's trendy to buy fresh turkeys. Like most anything else, fresh has more flavor, and if you can spare the extra time and money, it is the best way to go. But with our busy lifestyles, and our budgets, buying a frozen turkey seems like a wise choice. It's something you can do weeks in advance, and it's one less thing to do the day before. So if you do buy frozen, don't feel guilty!

I NEED MY TURKEY TODAY, AND IT'S NOT COMPLETELY THAWED. WHAT CAN I DO?

Place the plastic-wrapped turkey, breast side down, in a sink of cold water. Change the water every 30 minutes.

ONCE MY TURKEY IS COMPLETELY THAWED, HOW LONG CAN I KEEP IT IN THE REFRIGERATOR BEFORE ROASTING?

A thawed whole turkey will keep in the refrigerator for 1 to 2 days.

HOW CAN I GET A BEAUTIFUL GOLDEN BROWN TURKEY WITHOUT DRYING OUT THE BREAST MEAT?

Tent the turkey loosely with foil to delay browning of the breast. The foil should be removed during the last 30 to 45 minutes to allow the turkey to brown. Tenting for the entire roasting time can actually slow cooking.

DO I NEED TO BASTE A TURKEY WHILE IT'S COOKING?

Basting today's turkeys is not necessary. More importantly, basting tools, such as brushes and bulb basters, could actually be sources of bacteria contamination if dipped into uncooked or undercooked poultry juices, then allowed to sit at room temperature and used later for basting.

HOW DO I KNOW WHEN MY TURKEY IS DONE? CAN I TRUST THE POP-UP TIMER THAT COMES WITH THE BIRD?

Temperature should be your guide to doneness. You can use the pop-up timer as an aid, but to be sure that the turkey reaches a safe temperature, always use a thermometer. The thermometer should be inserted into the thickest portion of the turkey, but be sure it does not touch bone or the pan. Use either a meat thermometer which can be inserted at the beginning of the cooking time or an instant-read thermometer. Instant-read thermometers are not designed to stay in food during cooking. Pull the food out of the oven, then insert thermometer into the thickest portion of the inner thigh muscle. Wait about 15 seconds before reading.

HOW CAN I BE SURE MY THERMOMETER IS ACCURATE?

Submerge 2 inches of the thermometer stem in boiling water. It should read 212° F. If the thermometer registers above or below 212° F., add or subtract the same number of degrees from the temperature specified in the recipe and cook to that temperature. (This only works if you're at sea level. Water boils at a lower temperature the higher you are.)

WHY DO RECIPES SAY TO LET A ROASTED TURKEY STAND 15 TO 20 MINUTES BEFORE CARVING?

Standing lets the flesh of the bird firm up, allowing the carved slices to hold together better.

HOW DO I SKIM FAT FROM THE PAN DRIPPINGS?

Place the drippings in a measuring cup or similar container. Tip the container and use a metal spoon to remove the oily liquid (fat) that rises to the top. You can also buy fat separators in most cooking supply stores. Williams-Sonoma sells the Catamount Fat Separator. It quickly separates meat juices from fat with a cleverly designed glass cup. The fat in pan juices rises to the top, so its low spout pours off only the good juices. It's made from laboratory glass and is safe on the stovetop.

I'VE HEARD THAT ROASTING TURKEY IN A PAPER GROCERY BAG IS REALLY EASY AND DELICIOUS. IS IT SAFE TO ROAST TURKEY THIS WAY?

According to the United States Department of Agriculture Food Safety and Inspection Service, the glue and ink on brown bags are not intended for use as cooking materials and may give off harmful fumes. In addition, brown bags are usually made from recycled materials and are not sanitary.

CAN I ROAST A TURKEY OVERNIGHT IN AN OVEN SET AT A LOW TEMPERATURE?

No. Roasting a turkey at a temperature below 325°F. allows harmful bacteria to multiply. These bacteria, which can cause food poisoning, may be present in raw turkey. Fortunately, they are easily destroyed with proper cooking techniques. Roasting the turkey at 325° F. kills the bacteria yet produces meat that is moist and tender.

HELP! I'VE BEEN ASKED TO BRING THE COOKED TURKEY TO A POTLUCK. WHAT IS THE BEST WAY TO DO THIS?

The best way is to roast the bird unstuffed; carve the meat off the carcass, cover and chill thoroughly. To reheat at the potluck, place sliced turkey in an oven-safe baking dish, add about 1/2 cup water, cover with foil, and heat in a 350° F. oven about 30 to 45 minutes or till well heated through.

I HAVE LOTS OF TURKEY AND STUFFING LEFT OVER. WHAT DO I DO WITH IT?

Before carving your turkey, be sure to remove all stuffing. The leftover stuffing can be refrigerated for up to 2 days. After dinner remove all meat from the carcass (this should be done within 2 hours of the turkey's removal from oven). Leftover turkey can be refrigerated and used within 2 days, or frozen in small portions. Be sure to label and date the wrapped packages and use within 6 months. Leftover turkey can be used in any recipe calling for cooked chicken or turkey. Stuffing must be heated to at least 160°F.

HOW LONG CAN I KEEP LEFTOVER GRAVY?

Leftover gravy should be kept no longer than 2 days. Always bring leftover gravy to a full boil before serving.

HOW TO BE A GOOD GUEST

Arrive no earlier than the time the host has announced and no later than half an hour after the time. Plan to stay about an hour after dinner unless travel plans or sleepy children necessitate leaving earlier. Bring a gift, (but if it's a food or wine gift, clear it with the hostess first, just to be safe) and write a note of thanks afterward. Offer to help set the table for dinner and to clean up afterward.

Tell the host ahead of time if you have special dietary needs--for example, if you are a vegetarian, a diabetic, or allergic to common foods. Tell the host how to prepare a dish you can eat or, even better, offer to bring that dish yourself. If you're going to a potluck Thanksgiving, bring a serving dish and serving utensils with your contribution. Remember, the best potluck dishes are those that need minimal preparation in the host's kitchen, can be served at room temperature, and require only a fork to eat.

WHEN THOSE HAPPY HOLIDAY GUESTS DON'T LEAVE
By Andrew Boorstyn

The holidays are here, and there will be lots of comings and goings--and lots of staying. Sometimes friends and family can become too much of a good thing. As with all pest control, prevention is the cheapest and most effective weapon. Let your guests know beforehand when your party will end or for how many days they may stay with you. If stragglers still don't get the hint, try the following:

Andrew Boorstyn is an assistant editor for Reader's Digest General Books Division in New York City.


THE BEST DARNED PUMPKIN PIE YOU'VE EVER HAD
By Tony Silk

I'm here to tell you that even the man with no cooking experience can make a pie from scratch (which comes from the French "scraché" meaning "not from the grocer's freezer"). And since this is Thanksgiving season, it only seems appropriate to make a Pumpkin Pie.

Of course, if you really want to appear "manly" I can teach you to make a Mincemeat pie with the meat of a deer that you shot with a bow and arrow just yesterday and skinned this morning. But that will come in a later article along with my Tips for Decorating with Deer's Blood.

Now I will admit that the hardest part about making a pie is the crust. And if you really want to go to the store and buy a ready-made crust, well, who am I to tell? I'm the author, that's who, and I'm calling your mom. No, seriously, there are some pretty good ready made crusts out there, and they will save you some time.

The absolutely easiest way to make a crust is in a food processor. It's simple. It's not too messy. And best of all, it's hard to screw up if you follow the directions. You can do this by hand too, but it will be a lot more work.

Let me take a moment to talk about ingredients. A good rule of thumb is: if the individual ingredient tastes bad, the final product will taste bad. There are, of course, exceptions to this rule. Raw eggs come to mind. But otherwise, fresher ingredients will make a better pie. A good example for this is the water in the crust. If the water from your tap tastes like you're licking the Golden Gate Bridge just after rush hour on the day they ran the San Francisco Marathon, your crust is going to taste like that too. Buy some bottled water. It's cheap.

Now, when I first started making pumpkin pie I decided, being something of a purist, I was going to use fresh pumpkin. Ever try to cook down a pumpkin? I think tenderizing a bowling ball would be easier. So, slightly demoralized, I went to the store and bought a can of pumpkin. I turned it over to the ingredients list to see what wonderful chemicals I was getting for free. It read: Ingredient: Pumpkin. I decided not to feel so bad.

The other thing which people love to cheat on is the whipped cream. Now if you don't have a mixer you will have a tough time making whipped cream by hand. But, again, real whipped cream tastes better than the stuff from a can. True, if you want it to come out in a star pattern you'll need a decorating set, but everyone I've ever met always smears the whipped cream around anyway, so the star effect that you get with canned whipped cream is pretty minimal. I prefer the real stuff.

Okay, so enough with the preliminaries already. Let's get into the kitchen and make ourselves the best darned pumpkin pie we've ever eaten.

THE CRUST:

1 1/2 C. flour
1/2 t. salt
1/2 vegetable shortening
cold water

In a food processor with the steel blade, place the flour, salt and shortening. Mix using on/off pulses for about 30 seconds. There should be no big clumps of shortening when you are done, but you aren't trying to make it look like icing either. It should be "crumby."

Add 2 tablespoons water and pulse for another 10 seconds. Add 1 tablespoon water and pulse for another 5 seconds. The mixture may look a little dry, especially if some of the water is on the bottom.

You can add a few more drops if you are unsure, but be very careful.

Dump the whole mess onto a working surface (your workbench doesn't count) and gather it up into a ball. You may need to knead it a little to distribute the water evenly. Wrap it in plastic wrap and refrigerate it for 30 minutes.

THE FILLING:

1 1/2 C. pumpkin
4 eggs
3/4 C. sugar
1/4 C. water
1 t. ground cinnamon
1/2 t. ground nutmeg
1/2 t. ground cloves
1 1/2 C. heavy (whipping) cream

Mix the pumpkin and the eggs together (preferably in some sort of mixing bowl). Add the sugar, water, and spices and blend well. Add the cream and stir until completely mixed.

PUTTING IT TOGETHER:

Preheat (or just heat, if you are so inclined) your oven to 425° F. Take out the crust and roll it out on a well-floured board. Use it to line a 9" pie plate. Pour the pumpkin mixture in (it will rise a little, so don't fill it to the rim). Place it in the oven and bake for about 10 minutes. Then reduce the heat to 300° F and bake for another 45 minutes or so. Don't open every 10 minutes to check on it. It is difficult to over-bake this pie. You can tell it's done when a knife inserted near the center comes out clean (it may look a little oily and have tiny bits of pumpkin on it, but that's all right). Take it out of the oven and place it on a cooling rack and allow it to cool completely.

FINISHING TOUCHES:

1 C. heavy whipping cream
4 t. sugar
1 t. vanilla

In a cold bowl (like a metal bowl that you've left in the freezer for a while) whip all the ingredients together until stiff. Be careful, if you whip too long you will have butter. Take a heaping spoon (and I'll leave it up to you to use a teaspoon, tablespoon, or ladle) and place it on a slice of pie.

Now eat! (Or be polite and wait for your girlfriend/wife/other to come home and share it).

I hope you enjoyed this experience. Write and tell me how it turned out. (Forward through Debbie.)

Tony Silk is a Lieutenant in the United States Navy. He grew up in Philadelphia, the son of a professional caterer, where his love of cooking was cultivated. He currently lives in Ventura, California, where he works as a Test Pilot at the Naval Air Weapons Station Point Mugu. Tony likes to loiter at the mall on weekends, especially around Williams-Sonoma. If all that doesn't keep Tony busy enough, he also sings, dances, and acts and is currently performing live on stage at the Conejo Players Theater in Thousand Oaks.

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© 1997, 2003 Debbie Puente
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